Update, 4/29/2021: On Wednesday, Toyota dropped a press release announcing plans to soon begin building two new SUVs at its Indiana manufacturing plant — one a Toyota, the other a Lexus. The vehicles, Toyota says, will be "all-new, three-row SUVs designed with the active Gen Y American Family in mind" — which strongly suggests they'll be crossovers, as that's what Americans love these days. It seems the Highlander and Lexus RX will soon be gaining bigger siblings...which adds more fuel to the idea that the Sequoia may not have a place for long in the Toyota lineup.
The Toyota Sequoia is the sort of sturdy SUV that wins arguments on points, not on flash. Sure, it may be aging — it entered production in November 2007, back when Barack Obama was still an underdog for the Democratic presidential nomination for an election and subprime mortgages still seemed like a decent idea — but that doesn't change the fact that it's capacious, capable and stunningly reliable.
Trouble is, while bulky body-on-frame sport-utes were once the only option when it came to three-row personnel carriers with more ground clearance than a van, the years since the current Sequoia's arrival have seen a wave of large crossovers arrive with room for six, seven or eight people inside. So far, Toyota has pretty much avoided joining that trend, but that seems like it's about to change — and that could spell trouble for the Sequoia.
On January 4th, a member of the Toyota-minded gr86.org forum surfaced recent U.S. and Canadian trademark applications for the name "Grand Highlander." While the filings were short on specifics (as trademarks usually are), the name seems fairly self-explanatory to anyone familiar with automotive nomenclature: it seems to suggest a larger version of the Toyota Highlander.
The Highlander, as it stands right now, does indeed offer a third row — but it's more of an incidental-use pair of seats, designed for those awkward moments when your son's best friend's parents forget to pick her up at school and you need to throw an extra kid into the back for a short ride. Building a bigger Highlander would presumably involve stretching the very adaptable TNGA-K architecture lengthwise to add extra space between the axles, the primary advantage of which would be added interior volume — and considering the place the current model most needs more of that is in the third row and cargo bay, we presume that's what would be improved in a Grand Highlander.
Of course, Toyota certainly could sell a Grand Highlander alongside the Sequoia — but it's hard to see why they'd go to the trouble. We know a new Toyota Tundra is on its way, but it's still unclear whether it'll be paired with a new Sequoia. Sales figures would seem to bolster the case for tossing the arboreal SUV: in 2019 (the last year with, uh, regular sales numbers for the American auto industry), Toyota moved just 10,289 Sequoias, compared with 239,438 Highlanders. Considering how much more affordable it is to tweak an existing model than to build an all-new one, felling the Sequoia in favor of a longer Highlander starts to seem highly logical.
And keep in mind, Toyota still has another full-size three-row body-on-frame SUV for those who need plenty of space in a tough package: the Land Cruiser, which is definitely sticking around (albeit possibly under another name here in the U.S.).